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Why does mid-Michigan have so many deer accidents?

November 1, 2016 by Steven M. Gursten

Three counties in the center of Michigan are the worst spots for deer accidents with motor vehicles


Michigan has a lot of hunting and fishing tourism. We have a lot of cars on our roads. We also have a lot of deer in this state.  The combination puts Michigan’s deer-car accidents among the highest in the nation.

Regular firearm season starts Nov. 15, 2016. And so deer are on the move – potentially including in front of your car.  At Michigan Auto Law, our attorneys have helped many people who’ve been seriously hurt in deer accidents, often with attendant care claims for severe injuries, and with No Fault claims with their own auto insurance companies for lost wages, medical bills and other important PIP benefits that people are still entitled to in this state, even when they’re involved in a crash with a deer.

The latest numbers of deer car crashes for 2015 are in from Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Facts. They shed some light on the causes of many of these wrecks.

What’s first eye opening is that three counties in mid-Michigan (Ingham, Jackson and Eaton) made the list.

Here’s the full list of the counties with the most deer car accidents in 2015:

  1. Oakland: 1,873
  2. Kent: 1,528
  3. Jackson: 1,324
  4. Lapeer: 1,230
  5. Ingham: 1,087
  6. Eaton: 1,071
  7. Washtenaw: 1,062
  8. Genesee: 1,037
  9. Calhoun: 1,009
  10. Montcalm: 999

Source: Michigan State Police Traffic Crash Facts – 2015

Oakland and Kent Counties are not surprisingly at the top of the list because of the population density in both areas. There are simply a lot more cars on the roads, and that increases the likelihood of a deer car accident.

But Jackson County then comes in at No. 3.

Jackson County Sheriff Steven Rand said his deputies are starting to see a slight increase in dear accidents, which he suspects will “increase dramatically” over the next couple of months.

When people think deer car accidents, they usually think rural areas… farms with sprawling fields and grasslands. But Sheriff Rand pointed to the mix of rural and urban makeup in Jackson. “Typically, we see crashes as people are leaving the country, at what would be considered highway speeds, into what would be the more urban areas,” he said in published reports.

Last year, I wrote about the reasons Oakland County has the most deer car crashes in the state (Oakland again comes up as No. 1 for 2015). The issue is a bit different. In a lot of Oakland County, there’s no hunting allowed, so the only natural enemy of the car is the deer, according to local law enforcement.

So what do you do if a deer crosses your driving path?

Our attorneys always repeat the wisdom:

“Don’t veer for deer!”

Slow down if you can, and if you can’t avoid it, hit the deer.

It may sound harsh, but better the deer’s life than yours or another driver’s.

If you swerve or slam on your brakes, the chances of a potentially deadly accident from going into a ditch, slamming into a tree, driving into oncoming traffic or getting rear-ended are much greater than hitting that deer.

People often ask me about the risks of a serious injury if they follow this advice and hit a deer. Keep in mind, you are far more likely to injure yourself or another by swerving to avoid the deer and hitting a tree or another approaching car.  As an auto accident attorney, the majority of my attendant care cases over the past two decades involving deer crashes occurred because people swerved and suffered far more catastrophic and severe injuries by plowing right into a tree or another car or truck.

Also, while you may not have control over the deer, you can control your speed.  Don’t overdrive your headlights in rural areas and never drive distracted.

For more info, here’s an informative blog post I wrote with 13 tips on preventing deer car accidents.

Michigan deer car accident facts

Here are more 2015 deer accident facts from the Michigan State Police, that shed some light on prevention:

  • Michigan had 47,002 (15.8% of the total crashes) deer car accidents.
  • Passenger cars and station wagons represented 76.4% (36,088) of the vehicles involved.
  • As a result of deer car crashes, 1,132 people were injured and 11 people were killed.
  • Six (54.5%) of the fatal deer accidents were occupants in passenger vehicles and five (45.5%) killed were motorcyclists.
  • Motor vehicle-deer involved crashes were highest during the 7:00-7:59 p.m. time period (4,408).
  • The highest number of vehicle-deer crashes occurred in the month of November (9,292).

Related info:

Will insurance cover my vehicle damage from a deer car accident?

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